Youth centre a tough sell

Former Parkland students makes case for teen centre on the Peninsula

It’s a common lament: some kids have nothing to do. Typically, it’s the adults who complain the most and usually only after a serious incident and call on local leaders to do something about it.

Not as often, it’s a younger person stepping forward to make a similar case. April Hautaluoma, a former Parkland Secondary School student who is currently attending Camosun College, made a plea to Sidney town council this month, asking them to consider a new youth centre.

“It would be a safe location after dark where you can participate in activities,” she said.

Hautaluoma says an assignment last year at Camosun on the issue of youth having nothing to do had her interviewing students, mostly teens, this school year. Those interviews gave her an idea of what some teens would like to see in a youth centre. Those include games, sports, tools for helping with homework, guidance counselling or peer support, job and event postings.

She did address current youth programs active on the Saanich Peninsula — such as the Extreme Teen Lounge at Greenglade Community Centre. That program, she noted, is for youth aged 11 to 15 only.

“An issue is some of these places are out-of-the-way,” said Hautaluoma, “and geared to younger teens. There needs to be something closer.”

She said she looked into various locations to site a new youth centre and on the Saanich Peninsula, there are difficulties with nearly everywhere and a lack of public transit options.

The ideal location, she said, was between Deep Cove and Dean Park, which is an area close to existing bus routes. Sidney itself, she added, would prove difficult due to the high cost of leasing space or the expense of building something new.

This complaint is nothing new, said Councillor Tim Chad.

“This is the fourteenth or fifteenth time since I’ve been on council that somebody has presented this sort of thing,” he said.

Chad, who sits on the local recreation commission, added he supports the work done by the Mary Winspear Centre and Panorama Recreation Centre (which operates Greenglade). He said, however, the information collected by Hautaluoma is valuable and should be seen by Panorama and others.

“We’ve already done this,” noted Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, referring to a place called The Teen Hut which was located near the Mary Winspear Centre at one time.

He said ideas like this takes a lot of work and leadership but a singular problem has always been the fact that teens move on and the void is often never filled.

“That turns (a youth centre) into what the community doesn’t want and they close. It’s a tough go.”

Coun. Melissa Hailey said such programs need youth buy-in, otherwise such projects could be relegated to the realms of being lame.

Hautaluoma agreed more could be done to expand or enhance existing youth programs on the Saanich Peninsula.

She added a key to getting more youth out to local events — geared towards them or not — would be increased advertising of those activities in the school and in the community.